Monday, April 24, 2006

A Bit Special

21-years old. First playoff game. Messed around and got a triple-double.

So yeah, LBJ can play a bit - the no-look to Flip Murray at the end of the 3rd got me out of my very plush chair (no mean feat, I might add.)

Since that's established, people are already starting to wonder what happens when his rookie contract is up after next season. Obviously, he gets a max deal anywhere, so the argument essentially becomes whether he can have more success (both on-court and endorsement wise. I can't even speculate as to the relative weight he'll give those two factors) in Cleveland then in some other town where they might have cap space. (To which Knicks fans say Thanks, Zeke for sparing us that possible headache.)

Many contend that for him to reach his full 'potential' he has to find a 'bigger market.' I question this wisdom. For one thing, bigger how? Would Nike be paying him more if he played for the Bulls?

But more than this, I think there are dynamics unique to the NBA which make such 'big market' concerns relatively unimportant. First, NBA players have a far more individualied fanbase than other sports. I'd suggest several reasons.
  • Built in admirers from college (and increasingly high school)
  • Inherent individuality of basketball
  • Increasing intimacy involved with sitting closer and the guys wearing shorts, t-shirts, and most importantly, no hats/helmets.
Relatedly, the sport is more 'national' than baseball or football - we all watch the same games on TNT, ESPN and (the lucky ones) League Pass. The game is much more global than MLB or the NFL. It doesn't matter where Yao is playing, because the technology and marketing allows the audience to find him.

Besides, LeBron is the hometown hero in Cleveland, if he somehow landed in NYC is it clear he'd be the alpha dog over Jeter or Eli Manning? So market size doesn't neccesarily mean much to him. (Unless Spago is that important to him...)

Further, I don't think it's especially important to the league for the big market teams to be good - style is much more important. If Phoenix were to play Miami in the finals this year (hey, a guy can dream, right) people would watch because the games would be exciting. In contrast if the Pistons were to play the Mavs, not so much. The league wants him (and other stars) on good teams, I don't think they particularly care where.


Icepick said...

What you left out are considerations about how good can the Cavs be. For example, LeBron might be perfectly happy staying in Cleveland, but can the Cavs get the needed talent around him? Will free agents be willing to go to Clevelan when the strip clubs of Atlanta beckon, or South Beach, or LA, or ... or ... or .....

Also, there are possible pay differentials. If LeBron were to come to Florida, he would not have to pay state income taxes. With the size paychecks he'll being getting, that could be substantial.

All that said, if the Cleveland ownership and management are competent enough to put together a championship-calibre supporting cast, I'd like to see him stay in Cleveland. It'll give us small market fans hope that maybe we can hold on to our draft picks when they do pan out.

Fletch said...
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Fletch said...

2nd game: banged around and lost homecourt advantage.

I think that LeBron will probably stay in Cleveland, especially if the Cavs advance to the second round this year. Clevland is home, the strippers get more excited when you only come into town for four games a year. For tax purposes, LJ could establish residence in Florida or Texas (not entirely positive on how the taxes would work on that one).

Pooh said...

For the actual games, he actually has to pay taxes in the state the game is played. For endorsements, I'm less sure as to how it works, so Floridian (or Alaskan, we ain't got no taxes, save for your tax dollars thanks to uncle Ted) citizenship may or may not work.